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The Florida Senate

CS/CS/SB 426 — Firefighters

by Appropriations Committee; Community Affairs Committee; and Senators Flores, Torres, Hooper, Perry, Gruters, Broxson, Stewart, Taddeo, Berman, Powell, Mayfield, Rouson, Montford, Bracy, Farmer, Book, Gibson, Bean, Wright, Harrell, Baxley, Rodriguez, and Rader

This summary is provided for information only and does not represent the opinion of any Senator, Senate Officer, or Senate Office.

Prepared by: Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee (GO)

The bill (Chapter 2019-21, L.O.F.) makes firefighters who are diagnosed with certain cancers eligible to receive certain disability or death benefits. Specifically, in lieu of pursuing workers’ compensation coverage, a firefighter is entitled to cancer treatment and a one-time cash payout of $25,000, upon the firefighter’s initial diagnosis of cancer. In order to be entitled to such benefits, the firefighter must:

  • Be employed full-time as a firefighter;
  • Be employed by the state, university, city, county, port authority, special district, or fire control district;
  • Have been employed by his or her employer for at least five continuous years;
  • Not have used tobacco products for at least the preceding five years; and
  • Have not been employed in any other position in the preceding five years which is proven to create a higher risk for cancer.

The bill provides that the term “cancer” includes bladder cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, invasive skin cancer, kidney cancer, large intestinal cancer, lung cancer, malignant melanoma, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, oral cavity and pharynx cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid cancer.

The employer must provide coverage within an employer-sponsored health plan or through a group health insurance trust fund. The employer must timely reimburse the firefighter for any out-of-pocket deductible, co-payment, or coinsurance costs incurred due to the treatment of cancer.

For disability and death benefits, the employer must consider a firefighter permanently and totally disabled if diagnosed with one of the 21 enumerated cancers and meets the retirement’s plan definition of totally and permanently disabled due to the diagnosis of cancer or circumstances that arise out of the treatment of cancer. Moreover, the cancer or the treatment of cancer is deemed to have occurred in the line of duty, resulting in higher disability and death benefits.

The fiscal impact on state and local governments employing firefighters is indeterminate. However, to cover the costs associated with changes to Florida Retirement System (FRS) benefits (disability retirement benefits and in-line-of-duty benefits), the bill provides adjustments to the employer-paid contribution rates for the Special Risk class and the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) that fund the FRS’s normal costs and unfunded actuarial liability, and adjusts the percentage of funds allocated to provide in line of duty death benefits for investment plan members.

These provisions were approved by the Governor and take effect July 1, 2019.

Vote: Senate 38-0; House 116-0